CJ Cup @ Nine BridgesOctober 20, 2019

Jordan Spieth ties for eighth, hints that his weekend woes might be behind him

The CJ Cup @Nine Bridges - Final Round
Chung Sung-JunJEJU, SOUTH KOREA - OCTOBER 20: Jordan Spieth of the United States hits his tee shot on the 3rd hole during the final round of the CJ Cup @Nine Bridges at the Club at Nine Bridges on October 20, 2019 in Jeju, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

Weekends owned Jordan Spieth in the 2018-’19 season, the least productive of his career, and whether he can again effectively navigate them is the key to his bid for returning to prominence.

Spieth ranked 170th in third-round scoring and 187th in fourth-round scoring on the PGA Tour last season, offsetting his finishing ninth and first in first and second-round scoring.

It is too early to tell whether he has found a remedy, but in his first start of the new season, he hinted at better weekend days ahead. Spieth bettered par in both weekend rounds, shooting 70 and 71, to tie for eighth in the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges.

More impressive is that he opened each of the final two rounds with two bogeys on the Nine Bridges course, yet he was able to keep the rounds from unraveling.

“Certainly a better start than last season,” Spieth said. “Started with a missed cut and I got 55th, another missed cut, so good solid work throughout the season to start to kind of get my short game really back to the top. The rest of the ball-striking's certainly better than it was at the end of the season. Still needs some work to be able to contend here on Sunday.”

Spieth was not in contention in what became a two-man race, Justin Thomas versus Danny Lee, but neither were his rounds further contributing to the enigma he had become after producing 11 victories, including three major championships, in his first five seasons.

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He made 23 starts last season and finished in the top 10 in only four of them and in the top 25 in only eight, each a career low.

His weekend rounds last season weren’t statistic outliers; his driving accuracy and greens in regulation stats were anemic, too, 181st and 179th, respectively, and contributed to his debilitating Saturdays and Sundays.

Only his putter was effective; he was second on tour in strokes gained/putting and first in one-putt percentage last season. Spieth’s expertise with the putter was on display at Nine Bridges, where he led the field in fewest putts per green. He also was pleased with his ball-striking.

"It's a work in progress, so it's sometimes difficult to trust on course with different lies, different shots and trouble in play versus a driving range," he said. "But that's what I wanted to see. I wanted to kind of see and feel where everything was and where it can be adjusted as we go into next week. So I'm excited about whatever, seventh or eighth place, I think eighth place finish. That's good considering how I felt I played. It means that as I start to kind of get the rest of it under control, should be able to have a chance to win."